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FCW : September 15, 2015
September 15, 2015 FCW.COM 29 government workers. The hub has earned the reputation of recruiting mostly youthful, tech-savvy Silicon Valley types more likely to be at home in an RV in Google’s parking lot than working for a bureaucratic federal agency. “I think people think of us as a bunch of kids,” said Chrou- sos, who is in her mid-30s. “It’s kind of a misconception that they’re all young and new to government.” She noted that some of 18F’s key early employees came from other agencies and that most are senior engineers and senior designers. The majority of 18F employees, though, hail from outside government, and Chrousos said they bring a fresh perspec- tive. “When you first come in, naiveté about the government helps because you believe you can change anything,” she added. 18F is able to bring in those new perspectives significantly faster than most other government agencies thanks to spe- cial hiring authority, but there’s a limit to how long those employees can stay — usually two to four years. Yet Chrou- sos predicted that built-in churn would also pay dividends. She points to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as an example. Created in 1958 to drive the devel- opment of emerging technologies for the military, DARPA limits key staff to five-year terms and “turned out to be one of the most innovative places in government,” she said. Godbout went even further by saying the only way to effect change is to pair workers from outside government with innovators who are already working at agencies. “There’s always going to be friction,” he said. “There’s no way to avoid that. Let’s bring in these methodologies and these new people, but how do we pair them with the innovators who are already here who actually already have some really good ideas and have tried things? And that’s how you scale quickly.” Chrousos “has been doing that same sort of playbook,” Godbout added. What’s next? Chrousos played down the friction factor. “There’s no bad blood between the old guard and the new guard,” she said. “I think it’s less black and white [than] people think it is.” And ultimately, she noted, “good work speaks for itself.” In the short term, Chrousos said she hopes 18F’s good work can meet agency needs, create ripple effects and “make agencies more agile and more open and more cog- nizant of the end user.” Further down the road, however, her goals are more transformative. “In the very long term...I hope that 18F is no longer needed in government and that every agency has a digital service team,” she said. “At the end of the day, 18F is a platform to bring in smart people in areas where the government has a dearth of that talent. If in 20 years the government needs something it doesn’t have, I’m hoping 18F is that platform.” n “ We realized we couldn’t grow fast enough, so the only thing we could do was par tner up with the private sector to work together on the new project. ” 0915fcw_026-029.indd 29 8/26/15 1:20 PM
August 30, 2015
September 30, 2015